How to "Figure Out" Your Newborn




April, two-thousand twelve in the wee hours of the morning. My first baby was a few weeks old, my husband at the time was working graveyard, and I had been up for hours with a screaming infant.


I tried bouncing her. Patting her. Shushing rhythmically in her ear. Walking her in circles around the room. Hours later, I was exhausted, desperate, and at my absolute wits end.


I felt my entire body tensing up and filling with blind rage and for a quick second, I began to physically squeeze my tiny screeching child.


Not my best moment as a mother.

At this point, we were both crying. I held my inconsolable baby in my arms, weeping; having absolutely no idea what to try next to sooth her.

So, I called my mom.


In the same instant that she answered the phone, I rambled almost incoherently- "I don't know what to do for her, Mom! She has been crying for hours and I have tried everything. I've bounced her, rocked her, patted her, burped her...I feel like I want to squeeze her! I have no idea..."


My mom stopped me mid meltdown and asked ever so calmly, "Emmy- have you tried laying her down?"


Knowing it wasn't going to work but was better than me continuing to hold her in my current state, I laid her down.


Silence. Silence from my mom, silence from me, and FINALLY, silence from my baby.


I watched her drift off to sleep and began weeping even harder, as I stared at the sweet little girl that I had been absolutely despising for the past few hours.

"Honey- sometimes babies cry. As long as they are changed and fed, they don't always need to be figured out. Now, get some rest."

Such simple words, yet a piece of advice I have never forgotten as a mother.


Later, we laughed about the fact that I had tried every trick in the book except laying her down.


It also occurred me that if I were that tired and cranky, the last thing I would want is some giant, angry woman shushing loudly in my ear.


After that night, I never reached the point of desperation I had felt and stopped trying to hard to "figure her out." She was a human, just like me, and really- she wasn't that hard to understand.

I began thinking about babies and what they needed the same way I thought about myself...

If I couldn't sleep, what were the typical reasons?


For me- it was usually cold feet. After hours of ignoring my ice cold toes and drifting in and out of crappy sleep, I would finally drag myself out of bed to put on socks and then kick myself for not doing it sooner. Duh.


On the other hand- I don't always need someone to "figure me out." When I am in a bad mood or just not feeling good, the last thing I want is to be asked over and over again "What's wrong?"

When I started seeing my baby as a human and not some complicated newborn, raising her made so much more sense and figuring out her needs no longer seemed like such a mystery.

Don't get me wrong- I still face many challenges as a parent and am often left wondering what it is that my children need. The difference is- I don't let it overwhelm or discourage me. Parenting is hard work and raising humans requires a lot of patience, learning, and love.


The next time you feel yourself at a loss for what to do, remind yourself that maybe this doesn't need "figuring out" and maybe your little human just needs a chance to figure it out on their own.


The good news is- we are all in this together and none of us ever really "figure it out."


Struggling with baby sleep? Read these posts about "Mastering the Bedtime Routine," "Surviving Night Wakings," and "Baby Sleep Troubleshooting."

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